If the arrival of spring has you dreaming of romance, the best dating apps are standing by at the ready to help you meet new people. And that's even the case during the coronavirus pandemic.
Dating apps have flourished in the past year, even if people can't meet in person. A Marketplace report on the dating app scene found that the top 20 dating apps saw active daily users grow by 1.5 million last year. We don't expect that to change, even if the COVID-19 vaccine leads to stay-at-home restrictions being eased in the coming months.
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It helps that many of the best dating apps have responded to the times by adding video chat features and other ways to stay in touch even when you're stuck indoors. And some apps are beefing up their security features to help you feel a little bit better about getting in touch with strangers.
Different apps make their mark by taking varied approaches to the task at hand. Some apps excel at helping you find flings with like-minded people while others are more focused on helping you build long-term relationships. Whatever your heart desires, there's a dating app out there that's tailored to your outlook and needs.
If you find yourself looking for some companionship, we can help you sort through a bunch of competing options to find the best dating apps that fit your particular needs.
What are the best dating apps?
When it comes to finding love in the mobile age, it's hard to topple Tinder, one of the biggest and best dating apps that also enjoys a wide reach. Tinder has a reputation for helping you find quick hook-ups, though it's also geared to finding more permanent partners and recent additions to the app have improved user safety while adding video features.
Other dating apps boast strengths of their own. Bumble gives the power to make new friends to its female members, while OKCupid offers several different tools for finding romance. Eharmony has its famous algorithm for pairing up people, while Hinge's ultimate goal is to get people to delete its app off their phones (presumably because you've found a lasting connection and not out of frustration). Even Facebook has gotten into the act, with a dating service tied to its massive social network.
Looking for a same-sex partner? Grindr was the pioneer in that space, while Her offers a dating app for lesbian and bisexual users.
Before diving in to find the right dating app to find the best possible mate, don't forget to consider privacy. Don't just skim past the privacy policies of any dating app you use, as those policies can outline exactly what a dating site does with your personal data. Also be aware that many dating apps — including several on this best dating apps list — are owned by the same company. The Match Group, for example, not only operates Match.com but also Tinder, OKCupid and PlentyOfFish.
The best dating apps right now
1. Tinder (Android; iOS)
Tinder blazed the trail set by Grindr toward a world of swipe and scroll dating apps. On its face, Tinder encourages you to make shallow, snap judgments about potential partners. You create a simple profile with a handful of photos and a few sentences about yourself, then throw yourself at the Internet's mercy.
The app displays singles in your area. If you like one, swipe the photo to the right; otherwise, swipe to the left. If you both swipe right, you can send messages and set something up. (Interested in upping your Tinder game? We've got tips on how to use Tinder like a pro.) Upgrading to a paid Plus or Gold membership at Tinder gives you premium features like unlimited likes or rewinds that give would-be partners a second chance.
Tinder continues to tinker with its formula, rolling out a video feature that allows you to make in-app video calls to matches without exchanging personal details (a very important addition in the COVID-19 era). An even more significant change introduced a Safety Center feature that ties into Noonlight app and provides a panic button in case you wind up on a date where you feel unsafe. Later this year, Tinder plans to let you perform background checks of people, pulling data from public records. That feature's coming to other dating apps operated by Tinder owner Match Group, in fact.
2. Bumble (Android; iOS)
Bumble aims to help you line up dates or make new friends in your area, and it's on the queen bee (any female) to make the first move after two people mutually connect and are part of each other’s hive. There’s not much time to waste — there’s just 24 hours to make some kind of contact or the connection disappears forever. For same-sex connections or friendships, either person has to make a move within 24 hours before that connection is gone, though you can get a 24-hour extension.
Just looking to widen your circle of friends, as opposed to a romantic relationship? Bumble has a BFF feature for people who are not looking for dates and a separate section for making business contacts. The Bumble Boost upgrade, which ranges from $2.99 to $8.99, makes it easier and faster to meet or date people.
Bumble added video two yers ago, giving one of the best dating apps a leg up in the shelter-in-place era. A new Night In addition has added games starting with a trivia game to give you and your date something to do on your video chat.
3. OkCupid (Android; iOS)
OkCupid features a massive userbase and straightforward dating tools. But rather than rest on its laurels, OKC keeps refining and adding on features to its top dating app, such as a "Flavors" system that allows users to quickly view evocative flavors of potential matches, such as Kinky Nerds, Beard Lovers, World Travelers, etc.
All this is in addition to OkCupid's messaging tools, personality quizzes, Instagram integration and other old favorites. A premium subscription adds other features, such as refined search tools and the ability to see users who have liked you.
4. Match.com (Android; iOS)
Match.com offers its users a freemium dating experience on Android and iOS. Free users can set up online profiles, upload a few pictures of themselves and then engage in some online flirting with "winks", and have new matches delivered to them daily. More comprehensive features, such as the ability to see who has checked out your profile and liked your pictures, can be unlocked by a Match.com subscription.
Match has continued to add on to its features, such as a Tinder-like Mixer, Android Wear and Apple Watch integration, and the addition of voice and video snippets to your profile. This April, with people stuck at home, Match launched Vibe Check, which lets you enjoy video chats with your matches.
Like Tinder, Match also added a safety feature that lets you alert friends if you're on a date and feel unsafe. Another recent addition even lets you set your political views, so you can better find a person whose outlooks line up with yours (or don't, if you believe that opposites attract).
5. Facebook (Android, iOS)
An opt-in part of the social network, Facebook Dating focuses on helping you find long-term relationships, not hook-ups. You access the Dating section from within Facebook's mobile app, setting up a Dating profile that's separate from your regular Facebook profile. From there, Facebook finds matches for you based on your preferences, interests and activities on the social networking site.
Facebook won't suggest matches among people you already know on Facebook, unless you use the service's Secret Crush feature in which you can select up to nine Facebook friends or Instagram followers you have an interest in. If they also express an interest in you via Secret Crush, Facebook will match you up.
You can add Instagram posts to your Facebook Dating profile as well as share Facebook and Instagram stories. Like other dating services, Facebook Dating is adding the ability to make video calls to your would-be sweetie, using the company's Messenger app.
6. Grindr (Android; iOS)
Grindr allows gay and bisexual men to meet up with like-minded men nearby. Profile creation is a fairly minimal experience, focusing on a profile pic, user name, and a few simple questions, and choosing a "Tribe" that describes your type, and then you're up finding other users and chatting them up in minutes.
Grindr is free to use and advertisement-supported, but the premium version, Grindr Xtra, offers ad-free browsing in addition to other features like adding multiple Tribes and advanced search filters. One notable downside? Unlike other dating apps, push notifications for messages require Grindr Xtra.
7. eharmony (Android; iOS)
eharmony is a long-time player in the online dating game, and the first service to push an algorithmic system to try to make the best possible dating matches for its members. Once you create an account, users go through a "Relationship Questionnaire" to create a personality profile that helps match you with other users that eharmony thinks you'll click with. Every day, the app will provide you with a selection of matches and your areas of compatibility; you'll have the option to connect if the interest is mutual.
Premium subscribers get expanded matching and discovery options, and other features like being able to see who has recently viewed your profile.
8. Coffee Meets Bagel (Android; iOS)
Coffee Meets Bagel takes the opposite approach to many of the best dating apps, trying to focus on quality rather than quantity. Every day at noon, the app will send men a small selection of potential matches based on their profile and preferences, and women are then sent a number of matches who've shown interest in them, leaving the ladies the option of reciprocating the like. If the attraction is mutual, then the app will set you up with a 7-day chat window and icebreaker.
A redesign of the dating app puts a greater emphasis on user profiles, giving you the ability to comment on profiles and photos in hopes of fostering more connections between Coffee Meets Bagel users.
9. Her (Android; iOS)
Her is a dating and social network app designed with lesbian, bisexual and queer users in mind. You sign up with Facebook or Instagram accounts, and then view a stream of activity from other verified Her users both in your area and globally. You can Like photos of other users, and if the interest is mutual, the app will link you up to chat.
Of course, it's also more than just meeting prospective dates, with the app offering social features, news and articles about LGBTQ issues, events, questions and more. While the app is free to use and sign up for, a premium subscription adds extra features.
10. Hinge (Android; iOS: $10.99/month)
Refusing to follow the trail blazed by swipe-driven apps like Tinder, dating app Hinge puts its focus on relationships and interesting conversations. In fact, the service's explicitly stated goal is to get you to the point where you've deleted the app altogether — presumably because you've found love and not because you've had it with the app.
Hinge turns its nose up at swipes for a more detailed profile that you fill in with pictures and stories. Users can then choose to like and comment on something in that profile, and that serves as a mutual conversation starter. Each day, you can check out new recommendations, as well as see people who have liked something in your profile.
Hinge responded quickly to our shelter-in-place situation imposed by the coronavirus pandemic by rolling out Date From Home features. Other changes include teaming up with the likes of Chipotle and Uber Eats to encourage users to have socially distanced dinner dates. And a redesign last year introduced Standouts feature that highlights people who are more likely to be your type, along with topics that Hinge thinks will spark a conversation with your would-be match.
11. Snack (iOS)
Imagine TikTok, but for dating, and you've got a pretty good sense of what Snack has to offer. This dating app puts an emphasis on short videos. You sort through a feed of introductory videos to see if anyone sparks your interest, favoriting the ones of people you'd like to get to know. Should they favorite your video, you'll be able to DM each other.
The emphasis on videos makes Snack a good dating app option for our socially distant times, though the focus is clearly on the under-30 crowd. Snack is only available on the iPhone at the moment, though you can sign up to be notified when an Android version drops.
Download Snack: iOS
12. XO (Android, iOS)
XO wants to put some of the fun back into dating by using games to help break the ice. Quizzes, drawing games and other party activities let you share a laugh with somebody new and maybe forge a connection that leads to a relationship.
You find matches by filling out a profile and meeting up with someone who has similar likes. Or you can try one of XO's other, more random pairings. Blind Date puts you in touch with someone to play a game and exchange messages before you see their profiles, while Random puts you in touch with someone from anywhere in the world.
People who are serious about finding a significant other right now may want to some of the other best dating apps, but XO seems like a fun, casual way to make new friends — and maybe that friendship blossoms into something more.
13. Once (Android, iOS)
Once wants to slow down those frantic swipes as you try to find your ideal match. Instead of an unending string of photos to sort through, Once pairs you up with one potential partner a day, and you've got 24 hours to make a connection. You can keep chatting after that if both of you like another, but the idea is to focus on just one person at a time, so you can see if a more lasting connection is possible.
Matches are created with Once algorithm, which draws on your profile and your past behavior to find an ideal match. You can use Once for free, but paid memberships speed up the searching process and give you more matches per day if you prefer.
14. Happn (Android, iOS)
Happn is all about the people whose paths you might have crossed who you might find interesting and might also be doing the same things you are. A location-based dating service, Happn shows you the profiles of other Happn users you've crossed paths with, along with time and location. You can like any of the profiles that show up, and if the feeling is mutual, the app gives you the option to connect. Paid options offer the ability to “Say Hi” to other profiles, which includes a notification, as well as the ability to see profiles which have liked you.
15. Raya (iOS, $7.99 per month)
Somewhere between professional networking and a paywall-gated dating service sits the social app Raya. The iOS app originally began as a low-key dating service, but also began to be used to make professional networking contacts and friends, particularly among those in the creative industries. You don't just get in either; prospective members will need to send in an application, which will be vetted, before you're admitted to Raya or not. If you're let in the club, then memberships will cost $7.99 per month, or $29.99 over 6 months.
Download Raya: iOS
16. Plenty of Fish Dating (Android; iOS)
Plenty of Fish Dating lacks the depth of features found in some other apps, but it makes up for in breadth. This free dating app is one of the largest and most popular in the world, boasting more than 70 million members spanning the whole English-speaking world.
Users set up a simple profile, including age, education and profession, then search through potential matches and message them. Plenty of Fish keeps adding small tweaks to its app, including Chat Heads for Android users, VoIP calling for premium users and Instagram image uploads. You'll also find a free livestream feature that encourages dating over video.
17. Badoo (Android; iOS)
A standout in a rich field of dating apps, Badoo features 370 million-plus users from more than 190 different countries, all sharing their profiles and photos as they search for matches. The app uses a lot of varied means to find interesting matches, from a Tinder-like swiping system to viewing the profiles of nearby users.
Badoo puts a premium on making sure that its users are actual verified people, instead of "catfish"-style scams, with verification methods based on uploaded photos, connected social media accounts and phone verification. While the app is free to use, you can also buy premium credits for $2.99 to increase visibility or subscribe to gain "Super Powers," which provide expanded features.
18. Clover Dating App (Android; iOS)
A little bit of Tinder and a little bit of OkCupid, Clover takes a grab bag approach with a variety of ways to find and meet potential matches, from Tinder-like swiping to questionnaires, date planners, and detailed profiles with lists of interests.
Clover avoids the one-trick pony trap of more focused dating app experiences, so if you ever get bored of the swiping style, you can always try participating in live mixers, check out the 20 Questions game, or even experiment with Clover's "on demand dating." As with other apps, Clover has premium tiers that can improve visibility and add or improve existing features.
19. Heybaby (iOS)
Single parents looking for love may not feel comfortable swiping through their options on a hookup app. (Or maybe they are — we're not here to judge.) But for people interested in long-term commitments, Heybaby is worth checking out. The app positions itself as a dating option for people who either have kids or definitely want to raise them in the future by pairing folks up with like-minded partners.
Heybaby looks to distinguish itself from relationship-focused apps by using a fun questionnaire to gauge your compatibility with would-be partners. And questions about kids — including your current family situation — come up early, so you can meet people with similar outlooks.
The app launched in San Francisco initially, with plans to expand to other markets. Dallas was added last fall. For now, Heybaby is only available on iOS, though the app maker is looking to release an Android version, too.
Download Heybaby: iOS
How to find the best dating app
You're going to have the biggest success finding romance through a dating app if you first settle on what exactly you're looking for. If casual flings and hook-ups are your focus, shy away from apps designed to help you find long-term relationships. Similarly, if you're tired of one-night stands, dating apps that put a greater emphasis on swiping than on matching up compatible people are more likely to frustrate you.
Speaking of frustrations, nothing's more irritating than using a dating app filled with fake profiles. Pay attention to what dating services do to make sure that you're only being paired up with people who are taking things seriously (or at least as seriously as you are.) It's also a good idea to pay attention to what services are doing to protect the privacy of their users.
Since many cities still have a limit on just how many people can gather in public places, it would be good to consider apps that offer some form of video chat, so that your love life doesn't get put on hold during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
As best you can pay attention to security measures and how much of your data gets shared. Dating sites can suffer security breaches, just like any service, so use good password practices and don't re-use login info you've tied to other accounts.